Recent Comic Reviews

The Eternal Smile - Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim

Comic: The Eternal Smile - Three Stories
Release date: May 2009
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Derek Kirk Kim
Publisher: First Second (:01)
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: The story of a prince who defeats his greatest enemy only to discover that maybe his world is not what it had seemed. 
The story of a frog who finds that just being a frog might be the way to go.
The story of a women who receives an e-mail from Prince Henry of Nigeria asking for a loan to help save his family – and gives it to him.  

The Deal

After having bought 'Missouri Boy' by the same publisher (and really liking it) I didn't think too hard about it when I saw this graphic novel in the sales section of a book store in England (for the life of me I can't remember what store it came from). I've never read the well known story of 'American Born Chinese' by Gene Luen Yang and 'Same Difference' by Derek Kirk Kim but I've read great reviews about those two stories. It felt like I was buying a book with a dream-team partnership. 

The Feel

I can almost copy and paste this section from my earlier review of Missouri Boy, also a 'First Second' graphic novel. I've since seen a couple more and it seems all their books are designed to the same specifications and probably printed by the same Chinese printer. 
Both the front and back cover have an inside flap and are made of thick sturdy paper that will keep your book in perfect condition. Unfortunately in my copy the glued part of the the front and back cover part has come loose from the interior pages. The perfect binding is still holding all the pages together but I have to wonder how long that will last if I keep reading the stories. But perhaps that's why it was in the sales section of the store? The interior pages are made up of full color printed bleached matte paper. The pages in my copy were cut perfectly straight and kept together with perfect binding. The front and back cover have been UV-spot coated on top of the typography and most of the artwork.

The Stories and the Look

Three stories with three completely different but very impressive drawing styles. The three stories are about the reality we live in and the reality we perceive. They're all stories with a twist, I won't delve into the details too deep so I'll give it away.

Duncan's Kingdom
The princess wants her favorite knight to kill the Frog King who killed her father. Will he succeed and what else will he find?
A story of reality and the power of a guilty conscience. The story follows through quickly. I thought it was nice but did see the twist coming so wasn't surprised at the ending. Did find that everything was explained at the end and it all fitted properly in the story. The people and their surroundings were realistically drawn. If you put the first and the last picture of this story next to each other you can fill in the story in between in many different ways. If I was a teacher I'd give these two pages to students and ask them to make the story in between. To me it felt like a classic reality story that felt re-hashed. I found nothing new or surprising in the story as it was told. I did however really like the artwork. It fitted the story, colors were dark and gloomy where they were supposed to be and happy and colorful where it fitted. Well done Derek Kirk Kim.

Gran'pa Greenbax and The Eternal Smile
I loved the artwork from the first page, like it came straight from a 60's comic. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Story wise it started out good and I was wondering what would happen, but the middle just got a bit crazy for me and I started to wonder where it was going. The ending came as a surprise but did make me think of The Truman Show a bit too much. 

Urgent Request
Janet meets an on-line Nigerian prince who promises to send her money if she'll let him use her bank account. I think we've all heard stories of what happens next.
The artwork is so completely different from the other two stories it looks like it's made by a different artist. The art is soft and has no hard edges. I like the changes between the colors of her real life and the fantasy she's living. I like how all the text and text balloons are outside the panels so they don't interfere with the artwork. The story was set up very nicely. I really felt for Janet at her office and felt for her as she sent out the first e-mail to her new Nigerian friend. I know these things happen with people who fall for these kinds of things hook, line and sinker. I thought it ended in the middle of the story, there could be so much more than this. I guess that's the only disappointment I have with this story. The art is beautiful, the story is nice and sometimes a bit crazy. 

The Conclusion

I feel conflicted about this graphic novel. It contains three stories and all of them have their good points but as a whole it's not quite where it could be. I liked 'Urgent Request' the most although I think there could be so much more to the story. It feels unfinished somehow. The three artistic styles drawn by Derek Kirk Kim are amazingly beautiful and very different from each other. 

How to get a copy

I found my copy on sale and got it for 4,99 GBP. I Googled the title and found it on a couple of websites, the cheapest was on Amazon (USA and UK). It was no longer available from 'First Second' publishers so your best bet might be to get it from a second hand store. 

Bastard Son: Murderborn, issue 1 by Frank T. Allen and Marco Fontanili

Comic: Bastard Son: Murderborn, issue 1
Release date: Soon
Writer: Frank T. Allen
Artist: Marco Fontanili
Letterer: Taylor Esposito

Cover: Full-color
Interior: Full-color
Synopsis: There is something very wrong with Ethan Welles. 
As a child, Ethan would wake every night to the sound of his own screams. Through terrified tears the boy would tell his mother of a monstrous figure that pursued him through endless dark corridors, whispering awful things in an inhuman voice. Eventually, to preserve the boy's sanity, professional help was sought. 
Now a grown man, Ethan thought the nightmares from his childhood to be a thing of the past. He thought the terror banished by years of therapy and anti-psychotics. 
He was wrong. The nightmares came back. He came back. 
The darkness inside Ethan won't stop until it claims him and it isn't alone. 
There are others. 

The Deal

I received an e-mail with a link to the finished first chapter/issue of Bastard Son: Murderborn. The link led me to Issuu where I read the comic. The co-creator of Bastard Son, writer Frank T. Allen, started a Kickstarter project at the end of 2015. However Christmas isn't the best time to have a project on Kickstarter because it failed. Now the creators are on the verge of starting a new Kickstarter and I hope they succeed. Unfortunately I wasn't available for a review then but now my schedule is clear and honestly, who can resist a proper horror comic?

The Feel

I'll hopefully be able to tell you more about the print quality once the new Kickstarter finishes, but for now there's nothing to touch, or lick for those so inclined. 

The Story

This first of the five total chapters serves as an introductory tale of Ethan, his family and the thing that has haunted his dreams ever since he was young. The beginning of a horror tale with snippets of things to come. The first impressions of Ethan and his family are good. You get a quick sense of who everyone is as a character and you can quickly get on with the story. The ever present feeling of despair and fright in Ethan is never far off. The digital version of the comic is a full 23 pages long, which does not include a splash or back page, just one story from the inside cover page to the last. 

The Look

Fontanili made a clear distinction between present day, the past, dreamworld and the dark devil worshippers environment. His use of color is fantastic, bright where life is good and dark where it needs to be. The line-art is crisp and clean. Shading is spot-on and Fontanili is able to support Allen's story with great art. Whether you're looking at the faces, background images or the colors, everything blends in perfect harmony. I like the subtle use of Photoshop brushes and textures on some of the clothes and backgrounds. The only thing I was a little disappointed by are the large eyeballs as featured on page three as I would have preferred these to be a bit more realistic. It feels a little out of touch with the rest of the art, which is fantastic. That being said I don't think a couple of eyeballs should deter you from purchasing this good start. 

The Conclusion

This is definitely not a comic for the younger crowd as there are many gory and scary details. If you're older than sixteen or seventeen and you love horror, well then you really can't go wrong with this comic horror series. I was left with a feeling of wanting more. Perhaps even needing more. I love a good slasher movie and this feels right up my alley. My gut says we haven't even gotten to the good part yet. After reading this first issue I am so ready for the next installments, which will hopefully include more blood, guts and gore. Bring it on! 

How to Get a Copy

Curious about Bastard Son? Want to read the prequel to the story and be dazzled by some amazing artwork? Please check out the Bastard Son Trailer  issue on Issuu. More information can be found on the Bastard Son website. A new Kickstarter campaign for the first chapter is about to kick off. You'll find the link here later when the Kickstarter goes live.  You can also get your hands on some of Fontanili's artwork.

Dragon Slayer: The Collected Edition by Devin Kraft

Comic: Dragon Slayer: The Collected Edition
Release date: August 2014
Writer: Devin Kraft
Artist: Devin Kraft, Matthew Warlick and Jake Ekiss
Publisher: Cheshire Cat Art
Cover: red, black and white
Interior: full color
Synopsis: Dragon Slayer follows a ronin, a king, and a dragon as they each seek revenge for their own reasons. 
It takes a man to kill a dragon. What does it take to kill the Dragon Slayer?

Missouri Boy by Leland Myrick

Comic: Missouri Boy
Release date: September 2006
Writer and artist: Leland Myrick
Publisher: First Second ':01'
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: Happiness alternates with tragedy in these snapshots of Myrick's own Missouri childhood. Filled with startling and at times achingly beautiful images -- from a perfect paper airplane flying in the autumn sky to visits to the "underwear pond" to a solitary cross-country motorcycle trip -- Myrick has created a graphic poem that brings together the experiences that formed his character, for better and for worse. 

The Deal

I often visit 'Het Boekenfestijn' which is a book wholesaler that sells books (new), graphic novels (new) and comics (new and 2nd hand) at very low prices. They pop up in big venues all around the Netherlands and Belgium every couple of weeks. They usually have two large rows with tables filled with comics, TPB and HC's. That's where I found Missouri Boy. The cover intrigued me, but I wasn't completely sold on it when I flipped through the inner pages,. The way the faces and especially the lips, were drawn didn't speak to me at all, but it had planted a seed in my head that grew and made me come back to flip through it a couple more times. I really wanted to like it. At the end of the day I finally took it home with me. 

The Feel

The book is beautifully made, both the front and back cover have an inside flap and are made of thick sturdy paper which will last you for years even if you read the book over and over again. The interior pages are made up of full color printed bleached matte paper. The whole book is kept together with perfect binding and it looks and feels very good in your hands. All the pages in my copy were perfectly cut and bound with perfect binding. The overall matte colors on the interior pages were printed to perfection and the whole book feels very professionally made. The typography and the floating leaves on the cover have been UV spot coated.

The Story

This autobiographic graphic novel reads like a collection of poems. The single chapters are a collection of snippets from Myricks life. If you're looking for a book with a plot, a clear beginning and and end, this is not the one for you. 
Myrick starts at the beginning, literary, at his and his twin-brothers birth. A beautiful story of the cycle of life which is followed by ten chapters filled with some of the memories of his life as he grows up in Missouri. The memories aren't all happy ones. He shows us his older brother as he gets sentenced to ten years imprisonment and gets bullied by his friends and even his twin. They're counter weighed by happy memories. The ones that stuck with me the most were "Paper Airplane" and "Underwear Pond". Each chapter is a new memory, a new year, a new feeling and perspective of the world. It's the poetry of life.

The Look

When I first saw the book I was drawn to it because of the beautiful bright orange colours on the cover. I flipped through the inner pages and just wasn't sure if I should buy it. I liked everything about the artwork except for the way Myrick draws the lined lips. Weird how something so small can have such an impact. That being said I also realize it's the whole book that does it for me, the snippets, the artwork and especially the colors make this book. It's Myricks life and his drawings as he sees his memories. The predominant colours are brown, green and blue matte. I like how the snippets of Myricks life all have a title and a chapter page with the year of when the memory took place. It gives you time to say goodbye to the last memory before beginning a new one. 

The Conclusion

Especially after thinking so hard about getting/not getting this graphic novel I'm now so happy to have it in my bookcase. The chapters are really nice and the autobiographical nature just make you think of your own childhood. I think most readers that are older than thirty-five can relate to one or more of these stories. You will better understand it when you're a certain age, because your own memories will fit his more then when you've been born twenty years later. I do think the original price of 16,95 USD is a bit steep, I would probably not have bought it at it's original price.  

How to get a copy

I can't find it up on the First Second website any more but that's not strange for a book from 2006. You'll most likely find it at a 2nd hand (online) book store (ISBN 1-59643-110-5). I got my new copy cheaply at just 2,99 euro. 

Fun-O-Planet: Failed Alien by Nathan Ward

Comic: Fun-O-Planet: Failed Alien
Release date: September 2014
Writer: Nathan Ward
Artist: Nathan Ward
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: Fun-O-Planet is a comic series about a group of brainless humanoid teenagers and their weirdo adventures on an unfamiliar planet.

TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids written by Paul Kupperberg, art by Dick Ayers and Chic Stone

Comic: TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids
Release date: 1984
Writer: Paul Kuppenberg
Artists: Dick Ayers, Chic Stone
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: Archie comics made this comic to be used as a promotional device for Radio Shack Division of the Tandy Corporation. The comic is partly a step by step guide on how to use the TSR-80 model 12 computer and partly an adventure where Alec and Shanna prevent terrorism. 

O Human Star: Volume One by Blue Delliquanti

Comic: O Human Star: Volume One
Release date: April 2015
Writer and Artist: Blue Delliquanti
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: Alastair Sterling was the inventor who sparked the robot revolution. And because of his sudden death, he didn't see any of it.
That is, until he wakes up 16 years later in a robot body that matches his old one exactly. Until he steps outside and finds a world utterly unlike the one he left behind - a world where robots live alongside their human neighbors and coexist in their cities. A world he helped create. 
Now Al must track down his old partner Brendan to find out who is responsible for Al's unexpected resurrection, but their reunion raises even more questions. Like who the robot living with Brendan is. And why she looks like Al. And how much of the past should stay in the past...

Unit 44, Part 2 of 4 by Wes Locher and Eduardo Jiménez

Comic: Unit 44, Part 2 of 4
Release date: 22 April 2015
Writer: Wes Locher
Artist: Eduardo Jiménez
Publisher: Alterna
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: Agents Gibson and Hatch catch up with Chester and Ike, the men who purchased the contents of unit 44, but the items have disappeared once again. Just what was inside the locker and why is Senior Agent Ballard so desperate to get it back? In the midst of the chaos a new threat reveals itself.

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